Still in the hunt
Chicago improved its standing in search of a playoff spot with a win over New Orleans Thursday. Take a look at both teams' remaining schedules:
Week 16: vs. Green Bay, 5-8
Week 17: at Houston, 6-7
Week 16: at Detroit, 0-13
Week 17: vs. Carolina, 10-3
"I like it," Gould said. "I get an opportunity to get a warmup kick in but also see and judge exactly how the wind is blowing. For me, I wish every coach would do that and give me the opportunity. They say ice, but I don't think it really works."
After leaving Chicago with season-ending losses the past two years, the Saints looked as if they were ready to end their frustration. Instead, their slim playoff hopes took another blow thanks to Gould, who also converted a 28-yarder on the final play of regulation.
"You've got to know that Robbie is a Pro Bowl kicker," Hester said. "That's what he was there for. In a situation like that, you know that he is good for it. That pass interference was a big part of a victory. It set up the field goal in range and all we had to do was kind of keep the ball in the middle of the field and give Robbie a shot."
» Danieal Manning's opening kickoff return for a touchdown was Chicago's 14th kick return for a TD since 2004 (nine punt, five kickoff), tops in the NFL.
» The Saints fell to 1-6 on the road this season, compared to 6-1 at home (including their "home" game in London).
» The Bears have outscored opponents 99-44 in the first quarter so far this season. They were leading 7-0 after the first quarter on Thursday.
It was another rough night in Chicago for New Orleans (7-7), which lost the NFC Championship Game here two years ago and saw its slim postseason hopes vanish with a loss on the final day last season at Soldier Field. The last-place Saints still have a shot at the wild card, but can forget about catching NFC South leader Carolina.
"Who makes the schedule?" tight end Billy Miller said. "Why can't they come down to the dome?"
Brees, challenging Dan Marino's single-season record for yards passing, was 24-of-43 for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked more like himself late in the game after a miserable first half. Harassed by the defense, Brees was just 10-of-24 with 93 yards and a 49.5 rating in the first two quarters as Chicago grabbed a 21-7 lead.
"Every time we've played them we've been in a similar situation," Brees said. "They've gotten the best of us."
Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown and helped set up Matt Forte's 1-yard TD run with a 52-yard return early in the second as the Bears grabbed a 14-7 lead. Forte's score came after Jason David grabbed Hester as he tried to catch a deep pass down the middle, putting the ball on the 5.
Orton's 6-yard touchdown scramble in the closing minute of the half made it a 14-point game.
Garrett Hartley kicked a 30-yard field goal with just over nine minutes left to set the stage for Brees' go-ahead pass to Colston.
Thomas finished with 87 yards rushing and 59 receiving.
Chicago got a scare early when Forte limped to the sideline with a toe injury after his first attempt -- a run for no gain on the left side. He finished with 34 yards rushing and 29 receiving.
Orton was 24-of-40 with 172 yards and two interceptions.
Smith started at defensive end. McAllister was inactive and Grant (torn triceps) is on injured reserve.
But in the end, the Saints had another rough stay in Chicago -- a place where they've experienced their share of frustration in recent years.
"It's frustrating for everybody," said Reggie Bush, who sprained his knee in the first half and sat out the second half even though he said he was fine.
Notes:Saints starting LT Jammal Brown sat out with an ankle injury. ... Chicago was without veteran WR Marty Booker, who injured his ribs in Sunday's game against Jacksonville and has been bothered by knee and hamstring problems.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.